One of the hottest hot-button discussion topics between siblings revolves around the issue of Momma’s money. “Not that it matters”, sibling explains, “because we want Momma’s money to be used for Momma”. But, for whatever reason, a sibling issue still unfolds from the following:
Sibling Issue 1:
“It’s always been this way”
Some family are just wired this way. One of the adult “kids” will never assume responsibility for their own finances and are continuously hitting Momma up for money. If Mom still has capacity, there is little that can be done about this one. After all, it is Mom’s money and she can do as she wishes with it – including continuously give it to an irresponsible kid*. (The term “kid” in this article refers to (usually) a 40 – 60 year old adult, who is one of the children of the declining parent).
Sibling Issue 2:
Sometimes one of the kids are brazen enough to ask for (and receive) large chunks of money or land. Again, if Momma has capacity, this is her call. However, if her capacity has started to decline, this behavior is questionable. Depending on the circumstances, it may be fraudulent or even criminal. In many cases, it certainly could be considered elder abuse.
Sibling Issue 3:
As Momma Ages
This is a situation when one of the kids takes advantage of Momma’s advanced age and cognitive health. Usually it starts with them using Momma’s money for Momma. Then a trickle of the money starts being used for their own benefit. Sometimes the trickle turns into the kids primary source of income. This one can be hard to call.
If the kid using Momma’s money is also her primary caregiver, it’s tough to know for sure what is happening. If you are one of the suspecting siblings, don’t automatically assume the worst. The Help Me Help Momma FaceBook page is FULL of people that have sacrificed much – sometimes their job, their retirement income and even their immediate family relationships – for the sake of taking care of a declining parent.
The Best Practice here (for the Family Caregiver and for the other siblings) is to have a Family Meeting as early in the process as possible, where Momma’s finances and use of her money is discussed in detail. Keep meticulous records as a Family Caregiver showing exactly what Momma’s money is used for on an ongoing basis. If the Family agrees that the primary caregiver should be compensated (which is usually more than fair), then the terms and amount of compensation should be worked out up front.
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Sibling Issue 4:
Nursing Home Time
This is when things can really get tricky. Momma’s health has declined to the point where she needs skilled medical care in a nursing home. She may lack the judgment to make financial decisions on her own behalf. It is critical in these situations for the family to work together to ensure that Momma’s money is used for her best interests. Momma may have wanted certain assets to pass to certain family members. If so, it is critical to see an Elder Law Attorney to protect as much as possible. Otherwise, assets may be spent down before she can receive Medicaid assistance to help pay for her care
Sibling Issue 5:
It would be great if Momma had an estate plan in place – a good will or trust. However, many people have not done any estate planning. This is the time when it is important for families to pull together, for the sake of maintaining family unity. However, many families do just the opposite – they fight and pull apart during this time of grief. If you are in such a situation, it is wise to do whatever you can to maintain family peace and unity. Most families who do fight come to understand (usually after bridges have been burned) the the pleasure of the extra money or land gained from the fight, was not worth the pain of damaged relationships that will last for a lifetime.